A new visitor is making the rounds at the University of California, Davis’ West Village neighborhood.
Through June 1, San Jose-based Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation’s (SAIC) Innovation Center is demonstrating its automated, all-electric shuttle around a defined loop of the solar-panel-lined West Village community as part of an agreement between the auto company and UC Davis.
This arrangement provides researchers with the Institute of Transportation Studies, or ITS-Davis, and its China Center for Energy and Transportation with an opportunity to conduct perceptional and behavioral surveys among residents and shuttle riders at no cost to UC Davis.
“We want to see how residents respond to the vehicle before and after their experience with it to see if there are attitudinal changes,” said Yunshi Wang, director of the UC Davis China Center for Energy and Transportation. “We’d like to better understand how people embrace or resist vehicles like this and their potential to help with ride sharing or carpooling.”
The six-passenger shuttle was built in California for a Silicon Valley subsidiary of SAIC Group, which is the largest Chinese automaker and a partner of General Motors and Volkswagen in China. The shuttle has the capability to drive autonomously, but a professional driver will be on board the vehicle ready to assist at all times. Operating only in daylight at a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour, the shuttle will take a 1.3-mile route along Tilia, Sage, Hutchison and Celadon streets.
The shuttle will initially carry SAIC personnel. Provided initial demonstrations are successful, it will expand to transporting passengers along the route.
"SAIC's Silicon Valley Innovation Center is glad to bring our shared automated shuttle to UC Davis to help advance greener and more user-centered mobility," said Maxwell Huang, president of SAIC USA and SAIC IC/VC. "The project reflects the four pillars of our corporation's strategy: electrification, connectivity, intelligence and new mobility services."
ITS-Davis’ “3 Revolutions” initiative identifies autonomous, shared and electric vehicles as being the three synchronized revolutions needed to bring about a safer, more efficient and cheaper transportation future. The autonomous, electric shuttle incorporates each of those concepts. Researchers want to better understand the factors behind the public’s acceptance and perceptions of the new technology.
“UC Davis is a living laboratory for the transformations occurring today in new mobility,” said Professor Dan Sperling, director of ITS-Davis. “The path to sustainable transportation is in shared rides via pooling, exemplified by this pilot project in partnership with SAIC.”
Autonomous vehicle operations are regulated by the Department of Motor Vehicles in California. In addition to complying with all UC Davis policies, SAIC Innovation Center is required to comply with all laws and regulations regarding their use.